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New athletics complex will put UTSC on international map, students say

IN THE SWIM: An aquatics complex, as depicted in this artistic rendering, is at the heart of plans for enhanced athletic facilities at UTSC.

The new athletics complex proposed for the University of Toronto Scarborough will be a legacy facility that students and the community can enjoy for years to come – and as an incredible bonus, its role in the Pan Am Games will enhance the global profile of the campus and the city.

The $170 million aquatics complex earmarked for UTSC is to be a “crown jewel” site for the Pan Am Games that Toronto will host in 2015. The state-of-the-art athletic facility proposed for the campus features two Olympic-sized, 52-metre swimming pools, a 10-metre diving tank, multipurpose gymnasiums, a running track, racquet courts, and fitness and training areas.

“This facility will completely transform our campus,” said John Kapageridis, a fourth-year UTSC student. “This complex is a great deal for students because it will become a hub for our campus and the whole community that really puts us on the map internationally.”

The Pan Am Games will bring an investment of more than $700 million in new and existing sport and recreation infrastructure to southern Ontario; create 15,000 jobs in construction and games operations; attract 250,000 tourists, and draw 10,000 athletes and team officials to Ontario, as well as putting the international spotlight on our region and demonstrating Toronto’s capacity to host major events, according to estimates. There are also incalculable benefits in terms of such things as the support for local restaurants and facilities, sales of related products and the enhanced reputation of our region.

The Pan Am Games can be a tremendous economic engine for revitalization, jobs and legacy, as well as for building community networks and volunteerism, says Professor Bruce Kidd, dean of the faculty of physical education and health at the University of Toronto and one of Canada's best-known athletes for cross-country and track and field. The Pan Am Games are second only to the Olympics in terms of the number of events and calibre of athletes, he says.

“These games will be so fantastic for everyone,” says Kidd. “We have a great opportunity to elevate the profile of our city and our university with these games. Look at the excitement generated by the Vancouver Olympics, the economic benefits, and the legacy facilities. With the right kind of efforts, we can share the same kinds of stories about competitors, exciting profiles of athletes, and connect those aspirations and achievements with the people of Toronto and the GTA.” Kidd notes that the city of Melbourne in Australia hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1986 and “they elevated the status of those games to that of the Olympics, just through smart management.”

Kidd was the nation's premier middle-distance runner from 1960-64, during which time he won 11 national championships, a gold medal in the 1962 Commonwealth Games, competed at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He is active in the Canadian Olympic Association and is a well-known teacher, author and advocate for athletes' rights.

The Pan Am Games is a multi-sport event held every four years between competitors from 42 countries in South America, North America and the Caribbean. The next set of Pan Am Games will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2011. More than 40 different sporting competitions --- everything from archery to water polo to weightlifting – are involved. For a complete list of sports in the Pan Am Games, click here.

Students at UTSC will be voting on a levy in a referendum from March 17 through 19 to help fund a portion of the costs for an aquatics complex for the games, but those facilities will remain a legacy for students and the local community, he says. He notes that, most important to our community, the legacy facilities left to the city after the games will also help promote health and physical fitness in the community.

The Pan Am plans will benefit the university and the community as a whole, paving the way for us to get needed facilities a lot sooner, according to Kidd. “Every single investment in new facilities represents things we’ve wanted for years.” The Scarborough campus has been wanting a pool for more than 30 years, according to students.

Kidd says he is sympathetic to the financial plight of students and understands that they have questions about the cost of their contribution. Kidd noted that several other universities, including Queen’s, Trent and the University of Western Ontario, have all been using student levies recently to help upgrade facilities. He notes that the University of Toronto has a very generous student aid program and provides more financial assistance on an overall and per capita basis to students than any other Canadian university.

The levy for the athletics complex is $40 per term for full-time students and $8 for part-time students until 2014, and $140 and $28 respectively per term after that. However, every student who pays into it before the new complex opens will receive a credit for the full amount of their levy – dollar for dollar – to be put towards their athletic fees in the initial years, the student organizers noted. Even after the levy, the total fee package for Scarborough students is projected to remain in the middle range compared to other U of T students.

“I understand that students have financial challenges, but I ask, ‘Do you want to leave UTSC a better place than it was when you first came?’ If you wait for governments or donors to pay for everything, this won’t get built for a very long time,” says Kidd. “That’s not the world we live in. We need a student contribution to make it happen, and that contribution is moderate compared to what other universities are doing. This partnership is a way to get some really fantastic, world-class facilities much, much sooner.”

The new athletics complex will be funded 56 per cent by a shared arrangement between the province and the federal government, with the city paying 22 per cent and the university paying 22 per cent, of which 18 per cent is from a student levy. “If it weren’t for the other funding partners, the students would still be asked to pay this same amount for something much more basic and limited,” Kidd said. “And because this is a partnership with the city, our students and the residents of Toronto east will also have access to these fantastic facilities for years to come.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough